Texas Tech men's basketball coach Chris Beard went out of his way during his state of the program press conference on Wednesday to express his admiration for what Matt Temple has accomplished in his short time with the team.
In fact, Beard made a point to state he didn't give Temple a scholarship, the 6-foot-10, 240-pound senior "earned it".
"Another cool thing about that story is I had two or three of his teammates come into my office in 1-on-1 settings and basically go to bat for Matt," Beard said. "You know, 'hey coach it's your decision, we're with you, but we believe that Matt should be a scholarship player.' That was pretty cool. That was really rewarding to know that Matt has the respect of his teammates."
It wasn't simply that he picked up the scholarship, said Temple on Wednesday during Tech's media session at United Supermarkets Arena, he appreciated the manner in which coach Beard presented it to him.
"Coach Beard, it's kind of something we had been talking about, but he just called me into his office one day during the summer and just told me they decided to do the right thing and put me on scholarship. But, everything we do around here is based on winning, you know he's big on that. He told me, 'I didn't do this because it's the right thing to do, I did it because I think you can help us win.' It was good to hear that."
Most Red Raider fans likely know Temple's backstory of being found in the Tech rec center and encouraged to try out for the team by former Red Raider forward Clark Lammert. Temple eventually earned a walk-on roster spot prior to last season, made his debut eight games into the schedule against South Dakota State and became the starter after Norense Odiase went down with a serious foot injury.
In a very short time frame Temple went from rec league hero to Big 12 starter and of course it was all a blur for the Wichita Falls Rider graduate.
"It was like I was in a tornado out there," Temple said. "Those first two games they don't tell you, you know you practice and it's one thing, but you get in the game and it's a whole 'nother level. After the game, I think I was talking to Clark [Lammert] or Justin [Gray] and I was like, 'man, is it always like that?' and they said 'Nah, it will slow down, don't worry.' And probably the second or third game it started to, but it was crazy."
The 2015-16 season wasn't all roses for Temple, who suffered his own injury in the form of a pretty gruesome looking eye injury suffered during a floor scrum for a loose ball against Texas in Austin. The injury was serious enough for a trip to the hospital and the big man was forced to wear goggles for a stretch but soldiered on to average 3.5 points, 1.7 rebounds and 0.7 assists in 25 appearances. More than his stats, Temple was a sorely needed presence inside for a team dealing with the transfer of reserve center Isaiah Manderson prior to the season and the loss of Odiase, the starter.
"It was pretty surreal I mean going from my first three years I'd come to games, sit in the stands and watch," Temple said. "And then last season being apart of it was pretty special. We got a great team, these guys welcomed me in with open arms last year and that was really great. It kind of gave me the confidence just to be able to do everything. I just wanted to step in and really do what I could to help."
The future appears to be bright for Temple as Beard said in his presser the forward will definitely be a contributor and will likely shoot more this upcoming season. That might be a good idea considering he shot a team-high 60-percent from behind the arc, though admittedly just 3-of-5.
Both Beard and Temple also confirmed they are actively pursuing an extra season of eligibility with the NCAA, though whether that will happen or not is anyone's guess. Temple did say he is hopeful to receive an answer either way relatively soon.
"I love Texas Tech. If I can stay here another year I think this staff can do some special things for me if I give all I have," Temple said. "I know they are going to do the same and I think it would benefit me greatly to have another year. We're still in the process of getting that done. As far as I know to my knowledge we might know end of the summer or beginning of the fall. We'll see."